GUIYANG, March 4 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Zhenzhong, 62, spent most of his life in the mountains of western Guizhou Province, working the dry land, producing barely enough food for his family, and forever bracing for drought.
Zhang is from Houzidong Village in the province's western county of Puding. Some of the most impoverished counties in China are in Guizhou. Around 500 people once lived in Houzidong, and water supply has blighted the locals for decades.
"There was no water in Houzidong. We had to walk an hour to Boli Village to fetch a barrel of water. It was always very busy during the day, so I would only go at night," Zhang said.
Competition for water was so heated that it was not unheard of for villagers from Houzidong and Boli to come to blows.
In 2013, Zhang applied for a government relocation package, and was granted 60,000 yuan. To this he added 40,000 out of his own pocket, uprooted his family and moved to a better home in the suburbs of the county, about 37 kilometers away. A new home where he would not need to fight for water.
"Water is no concern here. We even use washing machines," he said.
In the last three years, most of the locals have left Houzidong. The handful of people that remain still walk miles to get water.
MOVE TO OPPORTUNITIES
China's relocation policy is part of the anti-poverty campaign launched in 1982.
"It is designed for those who live on poor land or in harsh natural conditions such as Zhang," said Wu Guobao, a rural development researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Zhang now works as a cleaner in his new neighborhood, earning about 2,000 yuan a month. Some of his fellow villagers have found work as construction workers or couriers.
Over the last four years, more than 420,000 people like Zhang have found new hope in Guizhou. Nationwide, more than 3.94 million people have moved away from under developed villages and neighborhoods.
China still has about 70 million people who live below the poverty line, and the government has vowed to lift them all out of poverty by 2020. For about 10 million people, this can be done by simply relocating. Guizhou alone plans to relocate 1.6 million people.
"Most relocation programs have been successful," said Long Yunmao, director of the Migration Department of the Qiandongnan Prefecture of Guizhou. A provincial-wide poll in 2014 showed that the relocated farmers'income grew 6 percent higher than the average farmers' income.
TOUGHER JOB AHEAD
Over the next five years, the government will spend 600 billion yuan (about 93 billion U.S. dollars) on relocation efforts. However, this must be supplemented by local-level funding, which is still lacking.
In Tongren City, Guizhou, the per capita relocation cost is 34,000 yuan, but the central and provincial fund is only 1,000 yuan per person,. The rest of the bill must be met by the county government, loans and the farmers themselves.
Money aside, not all farmers find the prosect of moving attractive, especially the ethnic population in southeastern Guizhou. For generations, they have lived off the land. -- it is their source of income, food and happiness.
"These people speak their own language and know very little Mandarin. They do not possess the skills needed to reestablish themselves," said Long Yunmao, a migration official.
Long said the incentive to move should be made stronger for these people. Their concerns and fears should be addressed.
More job opportunities, health care and other services will be improved for these rural residents, said Ren Yi, a migration official in Tongren.
"If they decide to move out of poverty, they need to be able to stay out," he said. Enditem